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A look at the “Ins and Outs” when using a venue for your event


Here, Europa International’s Events and Marketing Manager, Helen Lowe, talks to us about how to make the most of any space by seeing the upside of branching outside, and turning the way we use the inside upside-down.

Alfresco, by definition, means to ‘take place or located in open air’. A term typically associated with Mediterranean living, I think we’ll all agree; with their considerably warmer temperatures and much sunnier climes.

But as we hurtle towards another (arguably unpredictable) summer – during which the world’s perception is that us Brits simply downgrade our duck-feather-lined duffle coats for little less than a rain resistant anorak – are we missing a trick?

After all, what is the UK known for if not its whimsical countryside, or its industrial city skylines? And just imagine the opportunities that could open up to us folk operating within the events industry if we start to think about the great outdoors as an ACTUAL extension of our venues.

“First and foremost,” Helen says, “I would be remiss not to point out that the term alfresco is no longer used by the Italians to describe dining outside – which is perhaps what we most associate it with. Instead, it’s usually used to refer to spending time in jail!

“Now, I’m no language connoisseur, so I’m afraid I can’t fill in the gaps as to how this has come to pass, but it does lead me very nicely on to the topic at hand… How can we capitalise on the outdoors – breaking free from the inevitable physical restrictions put in place by our proverbial ‘venue prisons’ - without downgrading our oh-so-classy events to festival status?”

The trick, according to Helen, is to think of it less as an additional headache, and more of an opportunity to let your creative juices flow freely; uninhibited by walls or ceiling heights, or restrictive natural light challenges. And there is no reason to simply stop at planning how to bring the indoors out, when there are also so many ways to bring the great outdoors, in!

“Most of us will have had some involvement, at one time or another, in an event boasting a beautifully themed outdoor space – whether a small intimate wedding, a major international conference, or something somewhere in-between. And no doubt many of us will also have stories about how it went horribly wrong when the heavens opened, the temperatures plummeted and the cows on the adjoining field broke through the fence in order to say a quick hello to guests.

“But what no one ever seems to talk about are the times when it just goes right! When it may well have rained, but everyone was happily ensconced under a sweeping canopy; resting cocktails on the funky bar tables, perching on perfectly positioned rattan style sofas and seamlessly moving from inside to out.

“And whilst at the time we may have simply attributed such success to the aligning of planets, it is much more likely that everything went off without a hitch due to the seamless organisation of the event crew who identified and addressed all likely disasters well in advance.”

Well known for having provided furniture for a whole host of ‘happenings’ throughout its 50-odd-year existence – from the Open Weekend for the RNLI Poole HQ to the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise liner, through to sporting showdowns, fashions shows and musical extravaganzas – Europa International has certainly got a lot of ‘in, out, in, out and shake the venue all about’ experience.

They’ve protected many a heel from a muddy field with just the right flooring, injected ambience to an otherwise dull room with their collection of colourful bar tables and stools (available in lime green, pink, red and blue!), not to mention providing comfort and convenience to many a flagging delegate with their cushioned seating .

One of the most memorable such occasions was when the company was contacted by their good friends at Contemporary Event Structures to help create a myriad of breakout zones to help facilitate the flow of delegates at an event attended by more than 400 people!

Cue the installation of a 24m inflatable dome in the NEC, as well as several smaller structures housing the likes of a cool inner city bar, a considerable amount of grass green carpet, a host of rather lovely well-foliaged trees and more bar tables, stools and chairs than you can shake a stick at.

In a nutshell, the brief was to make darn sure that everyone in attendance – a load of Molson Coors UK staff, to be precise - totally forgot they were hauled up in a huge conference centre!

Helen said: “When we received the call about the event we were like… ‘What’s that me old mucker? You want to stick a load of huge inflatable tents in a massive venue and create the illusion that people are moving from inside to out with ease? On it!’

“I mean, when you put your mind to it all it takes is a little ‘fresco thinking’ (see what I did there?) and the opportunities are endless!”

The experts in all things furniture have had many a similar experience of bringing the inside, out, (anyone else feeling a tad dizzy at this point?) with lots of deliveries being installed in both country settings and urban surroundings aplenty.

But whereas ‘big ideas’ and ‘grand dreams’ of a homogeneous indoor/outdoor event are one thing, how can you as the person responsible for actually pulling it of actually, umm, pull it off?

“First things first,” says Helen, “get your trusted suppliers lined up and your theme nailed down. Once they are in place, it’s time to trust yourself and your ideas.

“Unless you are planning on taking things to the total extreme – perhaps inviting the aforementioned cows to the event itself – there is little you won’t be able to achieve with the right attitude and a well populated little black book; and once you have ticked each of those boxes, the rest will soon fall into place.

“So why not consider thinking, quite literally, outside the box (or marquee, or tepee, or stately home, or conference venue) for once, or even turning your pre-conceptions about what can be achieved in a solid indoor venue on its head. You never know where it might take you …”

Posted: 03/04/2017
Tags:  latest news

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